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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


October 19, 2018

Association for Israel Studies backs American student detained at Israeli airport

(JTA)—The international association of Israel studies scholars is calling on Israel to allow Lara Alqasem, the American student detained at Ben Gurion Airport, to enter the country.

Alqasem has been denied entry to Israel due to her alleged support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. An Israeli law passed last year allows the country to ban BDS supporters from entering.

Alqasem, who arrived in Israel on Oct. 2, has been detained at the airport while she challenges the decision in court.

The Association for Israel Studies’ statement, made Monday by its president, Donna Robinson Divine, says the association opposes boycotts of Israel, and that the best way to fight such boycotts is by allowing people to learn about and experience the country. The statement says the decision to bar Alqasem “gives momentum to the BDS movement that we oppose. Above all, it does serious damage to Israel’s academic status.”

The association also opposed the 2017 law barring BDS supporters from entering Israel.

“As academicians and as people knowledgeable about Israel, we think the best strategy for combatting boycotts is precisely the path Ms. Alqasem has chosen—a genuine education,” reads the statement by Divine, an emerita professor at Smith College and an adjunct professor at Haifa University. “There is no better place to acquire knowledge and deep insight about the meaning of a Jewish state than at one of Israel’s prestigious universities. We have faith in both the country and in the educational mission to believe a person prepared to learn will indeed be able to see and understand Israel as a reality and not as a caricature comprised of slogans and polemics.”

Last week, three major American Jewish groups—the Anti-Defamation League, the Reform movement and the liberal Israel lobby J Street—backed Alqasem publicly while noting their opposition to BDS.

On Friday, an appeals court ruled in favor of the government’s decision, upholding a lower court ruling. Israel’s Supreme Court will decide on Wednesday whether to hear her appeal.

Scarlett Johansson signs $15 million deal for ‘Black Widow’ movie

(JTA)—Actress Scarlett Johansson has signed a deal to play Marvel superhero Black Widow in a standalone movie for $15 million.

Her paycheck will be equal to Chis Evans, who plays Captain America, and Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, both in their own standalone movies and in the Avengers series.

The deal was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.  Marvel told the news website that it does not publicly disclose salaries or deal terms.

Johansson already has appeared in six Marvel feature films as Black Widow, also known as Natasha Romanoff.

Black Widow first appeared in “Iron Man 2” and since then has appeared in three “Avengers” films, as well as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

In the Marvel universe, the Romanoff character was trained as a young girl by the KGB, and her prowess as an expert assassin earned her the Black Widow moniker. She later defected from Russia to become a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, a secret American espionage and counter-terrorism agency.

Johansson was the highest-paid actress of 2018, according to Forbes. She earned $40.5 million, before taxes, between June 2017 and this June, according to the report released in August. Johansson, who has a Jewish mother, did not make the Forbes list last year, but she ranked third in 2016. In the past year she has starred in films such as “Avengers: Infinity War” and the indie flick “Isle of Dogs.”

Johansson learned about her family’s tragic Holocaust history last year when she was featured on the PBS series “Finding your Roots.”

Study shows regular tefillin use can protect men during heart attacks

(JTA)—Jewish men who wrap leather straps around their arm as part of their daily morning prayers may also be protecting themselves from the worst effects of heart attacks, a study found.

A pilot study by researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that regular users of tefillin, or phylacteries, may receive cardiovascular health benefits though remote ischemic preconditioning –that is, briefly restricting blood flow and oxygen to the heart and then restoring it.

The results of the study were published last month online in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

The study involved 20 Jewish men from the Greater Cincinnati area including nine who wore tefillin daily and 11 who did not. A leather strap is wrapped tightly around either the right or left arm for about half an hour during morning prayers six days a week, often tight enough to leave grooves in the skin for a few minutes after they are removed. They are not worn on Shabbat.

The researchers measured participants’ vital signs, drew blood for analysis of circulating cytokines and monocyte function and also measured blood flow in the dominant arm which is not wrapped with the tefillin. Blood flow was higher for men who wore tefillin daily and improved in all participants after wearing it just once as part of the study.

The study was headed by Jack Rubinstein, UC Health cardiologist and associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease. He said in an article posted on the university’s website that the binding of the arm and the discomfort users often report may serve as a form of preconditioning and offer a substantial degree of protection against acute ischemic reperfusion injury—when a section of the heart is deprived of oxygen and then damaged when re-oxygenated—that occurs as a result of a heart attack.

Ischemic preconditioning essentially mimics the effects of exercise by placing the heart and vessels under light stress.

“We found people who wear tefillin in either the short or long term, recorded a measurable positive effect on their blood flow. That has been associated with better outcomes in heart disease,” Rubinstein said

Israeli studies have shown that Orthodox men have a lower risk of dying of heart disease compared to non-Orthodox men.

LA Jewish group suspends grants to organization tied to Canary Mission

(JTA)—The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles will suspend grants from donors to a group that appears to support the controversial Canary Mission, although the foundation said it was not aware that previous grants had been used to fund Canary Mission and its efforts to blacklist anti-Israel activists on campus.

In a statement to JTA on Sunday, the foundation said “there was no indication” that grants to the Israel-based nonprofit Megamot Shalom in 2016-17  “were for the benefit of Canary Mission.” However, “Given what The Foundation has learned, it is suspending any further grants to Megamot Shalom,” the statement read.

Last week, the Forward reported that the foundation, one of the largest Jewish charities in the United States, had made a series of grants to Megamot Shalom, which the news site had previously linked to Canary Mission. The grants, totaling $250,000, were made by one donor to the foundation via a donor-advised fund. Such funds allow donors to receive a tax break and suggest where the foundation gives the money. The fund manager must approve any grants, although most such foundations do not apply much scrutiny to individual grants.

Canary Mission, which does not reveal who funds it or manages its activity, says that it “documents individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses.” Critics have accused it of seeking to intimidate pro-Palestinian college students and stifle their activism with the threat of a blacklist.

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles said in its statement to JTA that the four grants to Megamot Shalom were accompanied by a note saying only that the organization’s mission was to “fight anti-Semitism.”

Earlier this month, the Forward reported that a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco once earmarked funding for Megamot Shalom and Canary Mission. The foundation said it and the supporting foundation will not support Canary Mission in the future, according to J., the city’s Jewish newspaper.

In April, a coalition of pro-Israel students wrote in JTA that the Canary Mission website and its dossiers on student and faculty activists “is antithetical to our democratic and Jewish values, is counterproductive to our efforts and is morally reprehensible.”

Israeli border control officers have used information from the site to bar activists from entering the country, according to Haaretz.


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